UK Travel 2013 – Part 2, Yorkshire Arboretum

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7/22/2013

The Yorkshire Arboretum started life as part of the parkland around the famed Castle Howard in Yorkshire and the ancient walls surrounding the property can still be seen.  Some of the old trees from the late 1700’s give a majestic beauty to what is otherwise in many respects a young collection comparable in age with our own JC Raulston Arboretum.  Lord Howard began the creation of an arboretum in the late 50’s but much of that collection did not survive.  In the mid-1970’s with James Russell giving guidance, the creation of an arboretum was begun in earnest.

The crumbling walls along the southern perimeter add a bit of Gothic grandeur.

The crumbling walls along the southern perimeter add a bit of Gothic grandeur.

In the late 1990’s a partnership between the Castle Howard estate and Kew Gardens created the Castle Howard Arboretum trust.  That entity is now called the Yorkshire Arboretum to distinguish it from Castle Howard and the arboretum has its own visitor center, cafe, administration, and education programs.  The structure of the arboretum is spectacular with long vistas overlooking varied collections of trees on a gently rolling terrain.

One of many spectacular views at the Yorkshire Arboretum.

One of many spectacular views at the Yorkshire Arboretum.

Much of the early plant material came from Hillier Nurseries, long known as one of the premier purveyors of fine plants in the UK.  Significant collections of wild collected material also came to the Yorkshire Arboretum from Kew over the years and the arboretum now serves as a backup collection for Kew.  It would take many days to really get acquainted with this impressive collection and I look forward to the day when I will have more time to explore.

Leaves from a very large Quercus semecarpifolia on the Yorkshire Arboretum grounds.

Leaves from a very large Quercus semecarpifolia on the Yorkshire Arboretum grounds.

The Yorkshire Arboretum scored a coup last year when they enticed  John Grimshaw from the Colesbourne Estate to take on the position of director.  John is famous for his work with snowdrops, Galanthus, but his skills and interests range much farther afield.  John is the exceptionally rare gardener who is also a trained botanist or perhaps he is a trained botanist who is also a skilled gardener.  Either way, his plant knowledge is among the best in the world and the intelligence and passion he shows for his work should serve the arboretum very well in the years to come.

John with dedicated volunteers discussing the wildflower meadows to be established at the arboretum.

John with dedicated volunteers discussing the wildflower meadows to be established at the arboretum.

Grimshaw’s most recent book with Ross Bayton is in my mind the single best woody plant reference in decades.  Titled New Trees, Recent Introductions to Cultivation, it serves as an encyclopedia of 100’s of species of trees that have been introduced to gardens since the landmark series Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles by W.J. Bean many years ago.  I don’t think I’m biased despite more than a couple of entries that state that the JC Raulston Arboretum is the only collection growing a particular tree.

One of the finest reference books in the last decade.

One of the finest reference books in the last decade.

John has been uncovering the collections at the Yorkshire Arboretum and has found some outstanding specimens.  Future plans include the addition of many more flowering trees to the collections of oaks, poplars, spruces, and firs and the creation of wildflower meadows  which should be spectacular on the rolling terrain.

An extremely handsome Betula utilis uncovered by John that probably deserves a name and introduction to other gardens.

An extremely handsome barked Betula utilis uncovered by John that probably deserves a name and introduction to other gardens.

John’s home garden is still in its infancy but the colorful borders, fern collections, and snowdrop collection are already in place.  The garden is enlivened by an assortment of birds including a pair of beautiful chickens (silver laced Wyandotte’s?) and the stunningly lovely Lady Amherst’s pheasant and the garden is set in a delightfully pastoral scene with even the requisite sheep grazing around the hedged garden.

Perennial borders are already bursting under the skillful ministrations of John Grimshaw.

Perennial borders are already bursting under the skillful ministrations of John Grimshaw.

Follow me at @jcramark because life is too short for boring plants.

The showy male Lady Amherst's pheasant in John's home garden.

The showy male Lady Amherst’s pheasant in John’s home garden.

Check out all the happenings at http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum

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